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Raptors look for sixth win in a row against the Cavs: Preview, start time and more

The Raptors are on a five-game streak as they host the shorthanded Cavaliers. Important question: Do we need Serge Ibaka’s scarf? 

Toronto Raptors v Washington Wizards Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

The Toronto Raptors are back home after sweeping their road trip (3-0) despite losing sensational rookie Scottie Barnes to injury early in the trip. They are hosting a shorthanded Cleveland Cavaliers, who will be missing Kevin Love and Lauri Markkannen tonight due to health and safety protocols.

The momentum might be on the Raptors’ side, as they have won five in a row by playing a tough, gritty brand of basketball. OG Anunoby and Fred VanVleet are leading the way for the Raptors on both ends of the court, but it’s the (relative) newcomers in Gary Trent Jr, Khem Birch, and Svi Mykhailiuk settling into their roles that makes this team dangerous.

Svi Mykhailiuk stepped up in the absence of Barnes, averaging 15.3 points and 50% shooting from behind the arc while providing stout defense during their recent road trip. As confirmed by Khem Birch, Gary Trent Jr is a defensive revelation as he’s leading the league in deflections per game (4.8 per game) and 2nd in steals (2.8 per game). I don’t know if there’s a stat for “pick six” in the NBA, but I’d imagine he’s at the top if such a list exists.

However, coach Nick Nurse and his team should not lower their guards, as the Cavaliers are on a two-game winning streak, upsetting the Charlotte Hornets and the Portland Trailblazers. They have revamped their roster in hopes of being competitive this season, and so far, the returns are promising. Jarrett Allen and Lauri Markkannen’s acquisition improved the Cavs’ starting lineup, including rookie phenom Evan Mobley and the backcourt of Darius Garland and Collin Sexton.

Where to Watch:

Sportsnet, 7:30 PM EST

Lineups:

Toronto – Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., Scottie Barnes, OG Anunoby, Precious Achiuwa

Cleveland – Collin Sexton, Darus Garland, Dean Wade, Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen

Injuries:

Toronto – Pascal Siakam (shoulder – out), Yuta Watanabe (calf – out)

Cleveland – Kevin Love (health and safety – out), Lauri Markkanen (health and safety – out), Isaac Okoro (Hamstring – out)

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Barnes vs Mobley

Tonight marks the first of four meetings between these two ROTY contenders. Scottie Barnes and Mobley both cracked their respective team’s starting lineup and have provided solid two-way play. Most ROTY rankings have Barnes at the top of the race as of the moment, on the strength of Barnes’ unexpected scoring production, as he leads the rookies in scoring at 18.1 points per game. Mobley will probably be in the 15 points per game, as his guards take the lion’s share of the shots, but it will be interesting to see if Barnes’ scoring output declines in the coming weeks.

Centre of Attention

The Raptors don’t have anyone taller than 6’9”, and their struggles against legitimate bigs are well-documented. Jarrett Allen’s a big problem right now, and he was already a problem for the Raptors during the bubble when the Raptors still had Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol. Allen just dropped 24 points and 17 rebounds against the Blazers, and he’s second in the league in FG percentage (70.5%). It will be interesting if the Raptors can employ the same game plan on Daniel Gafford and the Washington Wizards, but Gafford is not Allen. The Cavaliers are 1-3 on games where Allen scored 11 points or less. With a depleted Cavaliers lineup, it might be a good idea.

COVID is still out there

As society tries its best to return to normalcy, we still have to be mindful that Covid is still around us. With Laurie Markkannen following Kevin Love into the health and safety protocols, we now have several teams affected by COVID again. Players contracting the illness doesn’t mean they are unvaccinated, but “breakthrough” cases happen, just like what we see all around us. As a society, we still have to do our part and follow the protocols mandated to keep everybody safe.